Celebrating the life and times of Karl Roy
The word “greatness” is often loosely used, sometimes irresponsibly, by others who do not even know the true and underlying meaning of that word when they ascribe it to an artist.
In my mind’s eye, when I hear the word “greatness”, Karl Roy’s image looms larger than life! There is no question in my mind that Karl Roy had greatness; he not only exuded it, he embodied it. He continues to be fondly remembered and recalled by so many.
Karl Roy is a legend of OPM and the local scene without question.
And that is why I have decided to share this story which I have never made public before in my column MusicMatters on Inquirer.net until now because I feel the timing is right. Flashback to late 2011. It was when I received word on Christmas Eve itself that my very first contribution was going to be published in the other major newspaper here in the Philippines. Having been told that seemed like the best Christmas gift yet I was to receive. I was so excited about it that I ended up sending a private message via Facebook to 5 OPM legends to share my happy news. Among all of them, it was only Karl Roy who took the time to reply a day or so later, and it was at night time. In his reply to my message, he expressed his encouragement and happiness for me that my very first article was going to get published in the newspaper. He added that he so wished there would be more writers like me who freely and wholeheartedly support the local scene only for the simple reason that they just want to. Likewise, he said such writers should not be overlooked because they are very much needed in the local music industry. His parting words to me were: “Ipagpatuloy mo ‘yan” meaning in English, “Carry on.”
At the time, I had no idea how poor his health was and that he was sadly already entering into his final days. And so, I always remember fondly that night–albeit in a bittersweet manner now–when he had replied because it meant so much to me on so many levels. His personal message to me is reason enough for me to continue what I am doing and to never give up supporting our local artists and bands.
In that one single lengthy message from Karl Roy, he not only inspired me to continue writing about popular music but effectively, he seemed to be giving me a directive on how I should approach my work. He believed in me when no other artist at the time did when I was a contributor and not yet a columnist. It revealed to me how genuinely selfless he was and what a big heart he had for someone he did not even know personally. I will always be grateful to Karl Roy for that message because it lit a fire in me that will burn bright till I myself am no longer in this world.
Even in his passing, I will never forget how he has touched my life.
In commemoration of the fifth anniversary of Karl Roy’s passing and his recent birthday on May 25, 2017, I and with the invaluable help of Jan Kristian Bahena Paulin, one of Karl Roy’s closest friends–who also reached out to the people below–have put together a tribute piece in celebration of the life and times of Karl Roy. These are personal stories about Karl Roy shared by some of the people who knew him best and got to spend quality time with the music legend during different phases of his professional career as an artist.
Listed below are the personal stories about Karl Roy coming from some of his friends, namely: Jan Kristian Bahena Paulin, Grace Guino (a.k.a. Brutal Grace), Nino Mar Tapia, Bubi Sanchez, Rey Ruiz, Andy Tonda, and Reli De Vera.
- From Jan Kristian Bahena Paulin – I will never forget how Karl helped out my band (S)crabble to have our first gigs. It was Karl who gave us our first gig at Saguijo. It was he who gave us our first gig at Peligro,tapos, nag-sara. It was he who gave us our first gig at Mayrics, tapos nagsara din. Hahaha! I really didn’t know what he told the producers of all those events to give this “beginner band” gigs in bars that were considered “prestigious” back then. Saguijona lang bukas sa lahat ng venues na yun. It was the Mayrics gig yun sumama talaga siya sa amin sa stage. He insisted that we jammed one song that our band and the crowd knew, so we decided to perform “No Excuses” by Alice in Chains. The funny thing is we all knew “No Excuses” pero, never pa namin na jam yun ng band, so, di naminmemorized. Actually, di namin alam tugutugin. Karl said “Kailangan natin tugtugin yan, bro!”. So, we decided to listen to the song in my brother-in-law’s car. We listened to it several times til our set was up.Gumawa pa kami kodigo kasi di namin parehas memorized ang lyrics. Hahaha!Tapos, napatanong ako, “Bro, sino sa high notes at sino sa low?” Karl said, “Ikaw na sa high, ako sa low.” So, ayun, we went up the stage with Karl… Karl introduced our band, then we started our set with “No Excuses” which nagkakalat kami. Sobrang nagkakalat talaga. Laugh trip talaga! After “No Excuses” Karl went down the stage. We finished our set with our “hilaw pa” at that time songs. By the way, we were not really included in the roster of the event at Mayrics that night.Siningit lang kami ni Karl sa line-up. Greyhoundz headlined that night with other big named bands as well. We were the only unknown band that night. Even Kapatid hindi kasama. Sinamahan lang talaga kami ni Karlsa venue, sa stage para siguro hindi ma– “Who you?” kami. He gave us a gig na di talaga kami kasama sa line-up, then jammed with us, parang kuya na hinatid ang bunsong kapatid sa school and nagpakita ng todo support. Ganun si Karl.”
- From Grace Guino – Hi, I’m Grace Guino also known as Brutal Grace (brutalgrace.com) in the Philippine rock music scene but that’s a decade ago. Currently, I am working as a staff photographer for ITP Media Group that is based in Dubai UAE. It’s known as the biggest publishing in the Middle East. I needed to start my intro this way because Karl Roy had a big contribution just when I was starting as a photographer. I’ve seen him a couple of times through Kapatid gigs but never had a chance to meet him personally. Until one day, I had the balls to introduce myself to him because with me are prints of his photos that I took from one of his gigs. He liked the photos and event, signed them for me. I gave him my DIY calling card and asked if he could update me on his gigs because I really like taking photos of band pictures. He said YES, but knowing his rock star status I knew it was just a “Yes” from my idol who is being nice to a fan. I’m so cool with that, that moment meeting him and a little conversation with him was enough for a fangirl like me.
After a week, I got a text message from Karl asking me how much will I charge him if he’d hire me as a photographer for their PULP Summer Slam gig (the year 2003). I can still remember that feeling, I was 20 years old, and here’s my rockstar idol asking me to be their photographer. It was such a pleasure just being considered to be their shooter. We meet up in Rock Radio Cafe in Alabang and immediately I told him,”You don’t need to pay me. I’m such a fan. If I had the money, I would pay you guys instead just for the hangout, seriously! I just need a photo pass to shoot PULP Summerslam.” During that concert night, Kapatid’s entourage had an “official photographer” on the list, which was I. I still credit that as my first Photographer title. I did a good job that night. Hence, I was invited to almost all their gigs as their official photographer, inside and outside of Manila. Such great times! I never felt uncomfortable even KAPATID’s crew is always all boys. This particular moment I remember… sharing a big room with all the boys after a gig. Karl gave me an inflatable bed just for myself and reminded the boys (about 7 of them in one big room) to flush the toilet bowl when used because there’s a lady in the room. That’s very sweet. I was literally part of the Kapatid entourage and I’m so happy with that. Imagine, I’m in my early 20’s. I’m doing my art which is cancer/gig photography and I hang out with such badass rock stars. When you’re a rocker chick since you were a teenager, my situation was just like a dream.
One night, Karl invited Vernon Go, the publisher of Pulp Magazine for night drink in Bigsky Mind. The main purpose of that drink is to suggest to Vernon that he should take me as a shooter in PULP magazine with Karl telling Vernon: “She knows where to go, she knows who to shoot, and she loves what she’s doing.” After a couple of days, I got a message from Vernon Go, asking me if I could drop by PULP office to show my portfolio. A month later, I was the first and only female, and at the age of 21, the youngest staff photographer for PULP magazine. I know I’m doing good with my photography, but I would never have landed the job if it were not for Karl.
After working for PULP magazine for 4 years, I decided to move to Dubai for better opportunities. From my local rock bands in the Philippines, I now shoot almost all the international acts (GnR, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Blur, Iron Maiden, Dave Matthews Band, Amy Winehouse, etc) that come to Dubai and I am forever grateful to Karl because of this. Sometimes, I wish I was having a beer with Karl, so I could share stories about my photography career, and how much cool and fun this job is, and just to thank him endlessly.
- From Nino Mar Tapia – Karl made a lot of friends when he lived in Batangas for a short period of time. He used to call or text me asking where I am and he would utter words to invite me to a “barikan“. He would laugh his as* out hearing us exchanging funny conversations and stories in Batangueño accent. I’m sure his friends here in Batangas have a share of wild and unforgettable stories with Karl, but I would rather tell one of the “unforgettable” parts. Hahaha.
It was 2012. A week before my birthday, Karl, Jayemar and I were about to have lunch in a canteen in front of our house. I was craving for kare-kare that day but unfortunately, it was already sold out. Karl ordered 3 dishes he never consumed, and I would act like his savior for all of his leftovers. But that was Karl’s way of giving whatever he has, he would say, “para satin yan.”
It was my birthday. I got out of bed at eleven in the morning. When I went down, Karl was sitting in front of a laptop, checking his Facebook account and greeted me “O,barek na tayo.” (Our way of saying ‘good morning’ hahaha). I went to the kitchen and my friend was cooking kare-kare. It was Karl’s idea to cook kare-kare for my birthday. I asked Karl, “ikaw nagpabili?”. And he responded, with his signature husky voice, “Oo, di ba favorite mo yan? Birthdaymo, e. Happy Birthday!” I was so happy I hugged him and thanked him that I forgot that we were both half naked. I also acted out that I was about to kiss him. Karl was shocked and just said, “Eeew, kadiri!”. We laughed so hard about it, though. We ate, followed by the usual ‘good morning’ ritual.
- From Bubi Sanchez –Primarily, Greenhill’s shopping center was the common ground “tambayan“. D’ Waldz, Tia Maria’s, Green lanes are top choices. There, we drank copious amounts of alcohol, scuffed numerous fistfights, met friends and new ones, but most especially talked and talked for hours, days, weeks and months about music. He always talked about how he just wants to perform/sing. At that young age (1988-89?), I already saw and felt the passion he had for music (and performing).
- From Rey Ruiz – I wasn’t one of many close acquaintances in Karl’s list. Even as he and I have bumped into each other in gigs around the metro, we only got to be in gigs around the metro. We only got to be buddies for a year or so, mostly in 2011 prior to my departure for the U.S. Yet, the brief camaraderie proved mutual and warm that we found the other’s sincere perception of kindness. I was there at his most vulnerable and lowest moments. I knew how he felt when he confessed his drifting self-confidence as a veteran musician and his seemingly hollowed connection with his fans. He admitted the lack of warmth and it was more of spite rather than pleasant when it came to the public’s perception of him. I couldn’t believe the dark brood he carried yet the depth of his calm never betrayed that fact. Rendered in volumes, it would have to be a mountain of woes veiled in candid smiles and chuckles. I remember him coming by my place, sauntering into the doorway asking for good pork barbecue and a few bottles of beer. I remember him feeling exhausted because of the traffic. He would squash down the sofa as he playfully greets my youngest son Alejandro. We would talk about good people and great memories in between swigs of beer. I’m happy just being able to cheer him even for only a while. I remember he never spoke ill of anyone. This is what I admired about him the most. A man of impeccable character.
Over the succeeding months, his very own “Karl Roy” band performed in various venues with the favorable outcome which elated the good man. We would have fun on the road from one gig spot to another, we had plans, wonderful things to look forward to. But still everything did not add up for him something else bothered him and it showed.
Then January 2012 came. A grand tattoo event was held within the bounds of a mighty beer brand’s promotional event. Distinguished musicians, artists, tattoo personas, and celebrities came together for the annual festivity. I was tasked by a good friend to document the tattoo part of the event. I was delighted to find out the final tattoo criteria for that year’s celebration was the best portrait rendering of the Philippines’ most notable rock musician. Little did I know that most of the entries came up with none other than Karl’s portrait on their skin. In full rock star regalia. It was phenomenal. The next day, I showed Karl my shots. He couldn’t believe the dedication of his fans in acknowledging his place in their hearts. He immediately called me and I noticed the teary, trembling voice that hinted of joy and hope. I was happy for him. The online social media world celebrated that fact and it was memorable until this day.
The last Karl Roy show I was able to be part of was at the B-Side in Malugay the following month. There was no hint of despair then, no more sadness. The good man gave it all. Despite self-doubt, only the steady rhythmic beats of his grand heart remained the selfish thing about him. He spread his lines in melodic rhymes across the wave of warm welcoming senses. Never anticipating an applause nor approval. It is more of a gift, from him whom they love dearly.
- From Andy Tonda –It was in 2003 that I first heard Kapatid. I was in third-year high school and the burnt copy of their CD that I had was on repeat for I don’t know how long. Their album wasn’t released yet, so I was one of the lucky ones. So lucky that I ended up DJ-ing in the same southern rock station as Karl and Chico. “Coincidence or providence?” Karl used to ask. I don’t believe in coincidence.
Karl and Chico’s radio show was called “The Jeckyll & Freud Show” and it aired everyTuesday evening. God knows I tried to be around the station every time. I loved being around Karl. A very gentle soul he was but his energy was something else.
Junior prom was coming up and my best friend and I thought it would be cool if she took Chico and I took Karl as our dates. I was too chicken to ask so my best friend’s brother set the whole thing up. Karl was so game! Fashionably late, he dressed up in his fisherman pants, white linen shirt, orange tinted shades, sandals and prayer beads. He let me hold his arm like the perfect gentleman. He enjoyed the pumpkin soup at dinner. He sang. I will never forget the details.
So, yes! I took Karl Roy to junior prom and it will forever be my favorite story to tell.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Karl and I got very close. We spent a lot of time together. Nearly every day, sometimes. We were always laughing together and we would always go to each other’s gigs. Sometimes, we would have gigs on the same night but then we would meet up after. For some reason, I always felt safe around Karl and I’d like to think that he felt the same around me.
I still remember the very first time I saw Karl. I still remember the very first time I got to see Karl perform. I was completely mesmerized. I don’t think anyone has been able to articulate the kind of performer or person he was. Many have tried but I don’t think it’s something you can paint with words. It’s the kind of magic you have to experience to understand.
- From Reli De Vera –I met Karl Roy when I was given the chance to play the drums for P.O.T. gigs. I was 19 then and everything’s still vivid in my memory! As a fan of the band, I thought he was that artist carrying a rock star persona, but then I learned he’s exactly the opposite when I got to know him. He lived a very simple life and did everything with utmost humility.
I guess he never knew how much he has influenced lots of musicians in the country, including me.
His legacy will live forever!
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